Sunday, April 10, 2011

Capsule reviews: Comics from 4/6

Jonah Hex #66 (DC, $2.99, Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Fiona Staples) - During a brutal winter storm, a small town wants to have Jonah stay for dinner... yeah, you can probably guess where this is going.  Another done-in-one issue, as Gray and Palmiotti continue to tell twisted little tales of the darker side of the Old West.  This particular story moves by rather quickly, in part due to several dialog-free pages, where the art carries the story.  The artwork by Staples is a little sketchy for my taste (hah!), but she does a good job of depicting the peculiar condition of the townspeople, even before the story makes it clear.  While the set-up is simple, it doesn't lack for resonance, as Jonah is forced to consider just how far one might go to survive, giving the reader something to chew on (okay, I'll stop now).  Once again, this title delivers a solid, entertaining story, and the only real question is why more people aren't picking this book up on a monthly basis.

First Wave Special #1 (DC, $3.99, Jason Starr, Phil Winslade) - A forty-page one-shot set in the First Wave universe, presumably originally meant as a serialized back-up story in the Doc Savage book before DC canned all the back-ups throughout their various titles.  I've been looking forward to this, as I liked the secondary Avenger stories more than I did the main ones about Doc.

This is primarily a character piece, as we delve inside the head of Richard Benson, a.k.a. the Avenger.  He is remorseless in his quest of vengeance against crime lord Shonder Zeev (seen recently in The Spirit), working his way up the ladder through Zeev's various flunkies before trying to finish off Zeev personally.  Along the way, Batman and Doc Savage try to warn Benson off, fearful that Benson's approach will lead to a bloodbath of epic proportions, in which not only criminals but innocent bystanders would die in large numbers.

And Benson doesn't care.  Although in some ways he has a very black-and-white sense of morality (you can almost visualize him talking ethics with Ditko's Mr. A), Benson is unconcerned about the greater consequences of his actions.  The only justice he is concerned about is personal justice, the justice of the vendetta.

Overall, this is one of the best, if not the best story to come out of the First Wave line.  The story is dark and taut, and Winslade's art really helps to sell the gritty, noir-ish tone of the piece.  Even is you don't have any other interest in the First Wave line, this one-shot is well worth picking up.

Blue Estate #1 (Image, $2.99, Victor Kalvachev, Kosta Yanev, Andrew Osborne, Toby Cypress, Nathan Fox, Robert Valley) - An odd first issue for what will probably be an odd comic book.  It's a mystery story, but the noir aspects are so (knowingly) over the top that it actually comes off as somewhat comical.  Our lead character - a slacker P.I. who is the son of a famous hero cop, and may or may not be as hapless as he first appears - is barely in the issue, although his narration helps to explain the set-up.  Instead, the story mainly concentrates on a scumbag B-list martial-arts movie star Bruce Maddox, his ties to the Russian mob, and his attractive but neglected wife Rachel, who has a few secrets of her own.

The pacing is somewhat odd, in part due to the multiple flashbacks used.  The art is a little uneven as well, no doubt owing to the fact that there are a total of four artists illustrating the issue.  The various styles of the artists are not completely dissimilar, but they're different enough to make some of the transitions a little off-putting.  Still, I'm intrigued enough to pick up the second issue, although one would be forgiven for possibly waiting for the trade collection, after hearing whether or not the plot actually resolves, or just stumbles along in a convoluted manner.

Glamourpuss #18 (Aardvark-Vanaheim, $3.00, Dave Sim) - The title character continues to be absent, and instead in the first half of the issue we are made privy to the to the burning question, "What if Cerebus had lived in the age of Mad Men?"  It's pretty much as screwed up as you would imagine.  After that, we continue the Alex Raymond/Stan Drake study from previous issues.

Seriously, what can you say about this comic?  In many ways, it's pretty much review-proof. There's no real plot, in the traditional sense, to dissect or critique.  The subject matter isn't going to appeal to most super-hero fans, and Sim's reputation probably drives away a large number of indy fans who might otherwise find the title of interest.  And yet, Sim keeps plugging away at it.  Either you like it or you don't.  I think the best thing that can be said is that Sim's mixture of satire and scholarship makes it an intriguing read, and it pretty much delivers what is promises on the tin, no matter how small the target audience for it may be.

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